Credential Privilege or Cumulative Advantage? Prestige, Productivity, and Placement in the Academic Sociology Job Market

26 Pages Posted: 26 Apr 2015

See all articles by Spencer Headworth

Spencer Headworth

American Bar Foundation; Northwestern University

Jeremy Freese

Northwestern University

Date Written: March 24, 2015

Abstract

Using data on the population of US sociology doctorates over a five-year period, we examine different predictors of placement in a research-oriented, tenure-track academic sociology jobs. More completely than prior studies, we document the enormous relationship between PhD institution and job placement that has, in part, prompted a popular metaphor that academic job allocation processes are like a caste system. Yet we also find comparable relationships between PhD program and both graduate student publishing and awards. Overall, we find results more consistent with PhD prestige operating indirectly through mediating achievements or as a quality signal than as a “pure prestige” effect. We suggest sociologists think of stratification in their profession as not requiring exceptionalist historical metaphors, but rather as involving the same ordinary but powerful processes of cumulative advantage that pervade contemporary life.

Keywords: inequality, prestige, professions, cumulative advantage

Suggested Citation

Headworth, Spencer and Freese, Jeremy, Credential Privilege or Cumulative Advantage? Prestige, Productivity, and Placement in the Academic Sociology Job Market (March 24, 2015). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2598639 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2598639

Spencer Headworth (Contact Author)

American Bar Foundation ( email )

750 N. Lake Shore Drive
Chicago, IL 60611
United States

Northwestern University ( email )

2001 Sheridan Road
Evanston, IL 60208
United States

Jeremy Freese

Northwestern University ( email )

2001 Sheridan Road
Evanston, IL 60208
United States

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